How not to gain weight while traveling

Early morning (Easter day) jogging in Nice, France
As someone who travels really often - and I mean really, really often - one of  the things I definitely need to consider when overseas is maintaining a balance between enjoying life to the fullest and keeping healthy. 13 years ago when I started traveling intensely I would have never even wasted a thought on that, but time as well as experience have taught me that a healthy traveler is a happy traveler and, most of all, a smart traveler. And if I mention how much the mere thought of maybe having to stop traveling one day frightens me, perhaps you'll understand why nowadays I have an interest in postponing that day as much as possible, even if this means skipping that much-awaited cocktail once in a while, learning to make the right choices when on the airplane or at the restaurant or, most importantly, regularly hitting the gym, the running track, the pool, the slopes and so on.

One of the aspects of a healthy lifestyle is - and I guess you'll agree with me on that one - maintaining a healthy weight. I have not always been good at that myself as I was already implying a few lines further up but have, in time, learnt how to not gain (too much) weight while traveling. Looking back now I realise how funny it must have sounded to my parents when sometimes my excuse for overindulging on trips was "but I only do this or that when on vacation". Until one day my mother replied with a sentence which, upon pondering, I actually found to be quite true: "but you are on vacation all the time". Oops, got me on that one...

Thus being said, folks, here's my two cents on how not to gain weight while vacationing without missing out on (at least some of) the culinary joys of travel.

15. Don't stuff yourself. (Du-uh. A very sensible suggestion, isn't it? And one which couldn't be more ignored by travelers! :D) Indeed, there's no need to fill your plate at the breakfast or dinner buffet, no need to pay for an "all-you-can-eat lunch", especially if you don't generally eat that much and by all means, don't feel compelled to try ALL local specialties, one or two of those will be more than enough if you're spending up to a week in a destination. 

14. Don't eat 3 (or more) times a day if that's not your daily routine at home. I very rarely eat more than twice a day and when I do (normally after working out), the third meal is more of a snack than a dinner. Whenever I cheat (who said I was perfect? :))) and have more than these 2 meals plus a snack, it immediately shows. If I don't perform any out-of-the-ordinary activities, that is, in which case of course I can eat as much as I want (sadly no) a bit more.

13. Don't eat three-course meals when you are on vacation, do not even do it when at home, for that matter, especially if your daily schedule does not imply a great deal of physical activity. If you're going to spend your whole day at the beach, for instance, I would definitely suggest you skip at least the dessert, if not the appetiser, too! 

Auckland (New Zealand)
12. Forget about the bread, even more so if your meal has enough calories as it is. I never eat pasta and almost never touch pizza, unless it is the only healthier option available (like a vegetarian pizza on an Economy flight where they only serve you meat-based food). Which brings us to the next point...

11. Cut out the meat as often as you can! It has been widely shown that meat has little to no benefits for your body (other than the taste, maybe :)) and I can guarantee you that it also makes you fat. I generally try to eat as little meat as possible but I do indulge once in a while (sometimes more often, like when I really want to try a local delicacy in one of the many places I'm visiting) and let me tell you this: the minute I include meat in my diet, I gain weight (trust me, the quantities I eat are extremely low compared to nowadays' standard and still I do!). Especially on flights (night flights, in particular) it is of outmost importance that you skip meat, I promise you most of the time you will find something else to eat instead, even in Economy!

10. Don't eat late (not for 2-3 hours before going to bed, if possible) and - if it's not a very long vacation, rather a city break or layover - try to beat the jet lag by having meals according to your own time zone.

9. Don't give in to temptation, not even on Business or First Class flights. I know it's not easy, but your abs will thank you if you skip that lavish main meal and/or that attractive, but oh so sugary dessert that some airlines offer. And if it's really impossible for you to fully resist, at least don't eat everything and, most of all, don't snack between meals on those impossibly long flights over Poles and oceans, as packed with goodies as the on-board lounge might be. How do I cope when flying long-haul in Business Class? Well, it depends, but most of the time I only eat one or two appetisers served together instead of the classic appetiser + main meal + dessert + drink combination. Which reminds me...

8. Skip the cocktails. Or if you can't, at least choose wisely and don't combine them with your meal (as no liquid should be). Some cocktails have a lower calories count than others (bye bye, Pina Colada... sigh)

7. Drink a lot of water instead. I'm sure I don't need to explain how important hydration is, especially on those never-ending flights and how beneficial water is for slimming down (I should remember this one more often, can you believe I still forget to drink water? Never on flights when it's so damn important, but still)

6. Be careful what medicine you are taking. I, for one, am allergic to dust, sand and some other stuff I have yet to identify and although there are only a few things which I hate more than pills on this planet, I do need to take my antihistamines once in a while, especially if I don't want to scare off my Dubai tourists or to look like a little monster in my holiday pictures :))) However, what nobody tells you is that you can very easily gain weight when taking them on a regular basis, as they tend to amplify your hunger sensation.

5. Choose active vacations or at least a combination of active and lazy if totally active is not your type, and always remember hint no. 13: do not overindulge on a lazy day or, if you do, try and compensate by swimming, running or hitting the gym! Or... you know... take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, if that's something you don't normally do.

Jogging on the Silk Road in Samarkand (Uzbekistan)
4. Sleep. Yes, one can not emphasise it enough, sleep deprivation will sooner or later result in weight gain. Seeing is believing, I honestly tested this one, too, without actually meaning to! 

3. If you are going to cheat, do it only once. Okay, do it twice, if you will, but not more than that and not on consecutive days. You know how quickly your body memorises the new weight, trust me, it will take you a long time and a lot of effort to make up for that "all-bets-are-off" vacation mindset!

2. Step on the scale as often as possible, even when you don't like what you see. Frequent weighing in has been shown to help a lot with maintaining your weight or even weight loss. I have to admit I sometimes check the scale a few times a day, it's incredible how much I've learnt about my own body as well as the foods that I can/cannot eat (or had better avoid) by doing that. (I even bought a second scale once when I had the impression my first scale was sabotaging me, but that's a different story, haha)

1. Do work out even when on vacation. Unless you are my (overly disciplined) husband, you're probably not going to do that every day, maybe not even every other day, but believe me, every single work-out routine helps and how much it does so is really noticeable! Not to speak about the fact that sports is - for me, at least - the only acceptable "pill" against sickness and old age...

(Oh, and if not for your health, do it for the view; you have no idea what you are missing out on sometimes!)

Central Park (New York)
Active sightseeing in Sydney, Australia :D
Running track with a view in Torshavn (Faroe Islands)
Faroe islands
Bucharest, Romania
Greenland (one of the toughest runs ever)
Running near Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina (July 2019)

How about you? What do you do in order not to gain weight while traveling?

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